Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

The Quit India Movement

This is Subhas Chandra Bose speaking to you over the Azad Hind Radio.

Comrades! Since I spoke to you last, about two weeks ago, the movement in India has been continuing with unabated vigour, and has been spreading like wild fire from the towns to the countryside. Throughout the month the British propaganda machinery has tried to give the impression that the campaign is now subsiding and that things are quietening down. But this attempt has completely failed, because in the same breath the BBC and its agents have given, or rather have been forced to give, news of more shooting on unarmed men and women all over the country. I can assure you that in the year of grace 1942, India can no longer be isolated from the rest of the world, however much Britain may try to draw a veil over that land. As a matter of fact, every bit of news regarding India's national struggle, every incident in Indian towns and villages, every case of shooting, whether in Ramnad or in Wardha, in Bikrampore or in Lucknow, is immediately flashed all over the world, is broadcast over the radio and published in the Press in all those countries that are either hostile to the Allied Powers or are neutral. Comrades, I know very well how in all the previous campaigns we were hard put to it to inform the outside world about the happenings in India and about the atrocities committed by British imperialists. Today the problem does not exist, and it is my pleasant task to keep the outside world informed about all events in India and to secure all the sympathy and help that India may need in her hour of trial. If today you could see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears all that is being propagated by your friends abroad about India's epic struggle, you would realise the measure of sympathy that India is receiving from the enemies of British Imperialism. And this sympathy for India is bound to grow in volume and intensity as British terror and brutality increases. The more we suffer and the more we sacrifice in the pursuit of our national freedom, the more will India's prestige go up in the eyes of the world.

I should like to tell you further while we have gained the moral sympathy of public opinion throughout the world, it is also possible for us to obtain from abroad any help that we may need for our emancipation. Therefore, in the fight against all the modern forms of terror and brutality, if you feel overwhelmed at any time and if you desire your friends abroad to give you the hand of assistance, you have only to say so. But these friends, who are anxious to see India free, will not offer their help to you, so long as you do not need it, and for our national honour and self-interest, we should not ask for any assistance so long as we can do without it.

In this connection, I would appeal to you once again to trust fully your countrymen abroad who are working heart and soul with you for the speedy liberation of India. We are today the custodians of India's national honour, the unofficial ambassadors of free India. As at home, so also abroad, we stand always for Independence, and we shall never permit vital encroachments on our national sovereignty by any foreign power.

Do not be carried away by ideological considerations; do not bother about the internal politics of other countries, which is no concern of ours. Believe me when I say that the enemies of British Imperialism are our friends and allies. It is to their interest to see the British Empire broken up and India once again free. And they know very well that so long as India remains under the British yoke there can be no victory for them and there can be no peace. In the political field, I should be the last man to expect foreign Powers to sympathize with us if it were not in their own interest to do so.

Comrades, you must have observed how during the last few months the British Empire has been passing through its darkest hours. Gone are the days when London was the metropolis of the world. Gone are the days when kings and statesmen had to wend their way to London in order to have their problems solved. Gone are the days when the American President had to come to Europe to meet the British Prime Minister. As an English poet, Tennyson, has himself said, "The old order changeth yielding place to new, and God fulfils himself in many ways.” Consequently, the British Prime Minister has now to run to New York and Washington, and Americans in Britain are declared to be outside the jurisdiction of British laws. Thus, Britain and her Empire are fast becoming a colony of Roosevelt's ‘New Empire'. But India has no desire to remain in any empire, and she must, therefore, now fight the old imperialism as well as the new. The most interesting phase of the metamorphosis that has overtaken the British Empire is the fact that the High Priest of Imperialism, the arch-enemy of Indian nationalism, the sworn opponent of all forms of Socialism, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, has had to swallow all his former imperialist pride and present himself at the gates of the Kremlin in Moscow.

Is it not significant that in his desperation this representative of British imperialism should do everything else, but under no circumstances will he think of recognizing India's independence? India is the jewel of the British Empire, and in order to keep this jewel the British people will fight to the last. The Indian people, therefore, and particularly the leaders, should banish all hopes that Britain will accede to India's demands, and should carry on the struggle till the last Britisher is expelled from India. In the last days of our campaign there will be much suffering and sorrow, much persecution and slaughter, much suppression and massacre. But that is the price of liberty and it has to be paid It is but natural that in its last hours the British lion will bite hard, but it is after all the bite of a dying lion, and we shall survive it

In this critical hour our strategy should consist in continuing the fight for our independence regardless of the consequences The British Empire will soon collapse and break up as a result of shattering defeats in all the theatres of war. And when the final dismemberment of the Empire takes place, power will automatically come into the hands of the Indian people. Our final victory will come as a result of our efforts alone. Consequently, it does not matter in the least if we in India suffer temporary set-backs, specially when we are confronted with machine-guns, bombs, tanks and aeroplanes Our task is to continue the national struggle in spite of all obstacles and set-backs till the hour of liberation arrives.

There is no cause to be depressed because the leaders are imprisoned. On the contrary, their sufferings will serve as a perpetual inspiration to the entire nation. Moreover, those who are now away from the field of action have given you the plan that has to be executed by you now.

Comrades, I have already assured you that whatever I have been doing abroad is in accordance with the wishes of a very large section of my countrymen. I will not do anything which the whole of India will not whole-heartedly endorse. Ever since I left home I have remained in intimate contact with my countrymen at home through more channels than one. in spite of all the efforts of the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India and the British Secret Service. During the last few months you have had proof of my close contact with my countrymen in India and many of you know by now how you can communicate with me whenever you so desire I may now tell you that it is no longer possible for the British to prevent my going to India or getting out whenever I wish to do so.

At the present moment all the countries that are being suppressed or dominated by Britain are either in a state of revolt or are preparing for one. If we in India continue our struggle we shall not only effect our emancipation speedily, but will also expedite the liberation of all countries exploited and dominated by Britain. On the other hand if the Indian people remain inactive, the enemies of Britain will take the initiative in expelling the British from India. The British Empire is in any case doomed, and the only question is as to what will happen to us when its final dissolution takes place. Shall we obtain our freedom as a gift from other Powers or shall we win it by our own effort?

I would request Mr Jinnah, Mr Savarkar, and all those leaders who still think of a compromise with the British, to realise once for all that in the world of tomorrow there will be no British Empire. All those individuals, groups or parties who now participate in the fight for freedom will have an honoured place in the India of tomorrow. The supporters of British Imperialism will naturally become non-entities in a free India. I will appeal earnestly to all parties and groups to consider this and to think in terms of nationalism and anti-imperialism, and to come forward and join the epic struggle that is going on now. I appeal to the progressive elements of the Muslim League, with some of whom I have had the privilege of cooperating in the work of the Calcutta Corporation. I appeal to the brave Majlis-i-Ahrar the Nationalist Muslim Party of India that started the Civil Disobedience campaign in 1939 against Britain's war effort before any other party did so. I appeal to the Jamiat-ul-Ulema the old representative organisation of the Ulemas or the Muslim divines of India, led by that distinguished patriot and leader Mufti Khifayat Ullah. I appeal to the Azad Muslim League, another important organisation of the nationalist Muslims of India. I appeal to the Akali Dal, the leading nationalist Sikh party of India. And last but not the least I appeal to the Praja Party of Bengal, which commands the confidence of that province and is led by well-known patriots. I have no doubt that if all these organisations join in this struggle the day of India's liberation will be drawn nearer.

The campaign that is now going on in India may be described as non-violent guerrilla warfare. In this guerrilla war the tactics of dispersal have to be employed. In other words, we should spread out our activities all over the country so that the British police and military may not be able to concentrate their attack on one point. In accordance with the principles of guerrilla war, we should also be as mobile as possible and should move continuously from place to place. The authorities should never be able to predict where our activities will emerge next. Friends, as you are aware, I have been through each of the campaigns between 1921 and 1940, and I know the causes of their failure. I have now had the opportunity of taking expert advice with regard to the tactics of guerrilla warfare, and I am in a position to offer you some suggestions as to how this present campaign should be brought to a victorious end. The object of this non-violent guerrilla campaign should be a two-told one. Firstly, to destroy war production in India, and secondly, to paralyse the British administration in the country. Keeping these objects in view, every section of the community should participate in the struggle.

Firstly, you should stop paying all taxes that directly or indirectly bring revenue to the Government. Secondly, workers in all industries should either launch a 'stay-in' strike or try to hamper production by conducting a 'go-slow’ campaign inside the factories. They should also carry out sabotage with such methods as the removing of nuts and bolts in order to impede production. Thirdly, students should organise secret guerrilla bands for carrying on sabotage in different parts of the country. They should also invent new ways of annoying the British authorities, for example, burning stamps, etc., in post offices, destroying British monuments, and so on. Fourthly, women, and especially girl students, should do underground work of all kinds, either as secret messengers or by providing shelter for the men who fight. Fifthly, Government officials who are prepared to help the campaign should not resign their posts, but those in Government offices and in war industries should give all available information to fighters outside, and should try to hamper production by working inefficiently. Sixthly, servants who are working in the houses of Britishers should be organised for the purpose of giving trouble to their masters, for example by demanding higher salaries, cooking and serving bad food and drinks, etc. Seventhly, Indians should give up all business with British banks, firms, insurance companies, etc. Eighthly, listen to the broadcasts of Col. Britton in the European Service of the BBC and apply the Colonel's tactics to the Indian situation.

For the general public I also suggest the following activities:
(a)    Boycott of British goods, including burning of British stalls and Government stores;
(b)    Total boycott of all Britishers in India, and of those Indians who are pro-British;
(c)    Holding of public meetings and demonstrations in spite of official prohibition;
(d)    Publishing of secret bulletins, and setting up of secret radio stations;
(e)    Marching to the houses of British Government officials and demanding their departure from India;
(f)    Organising of processions for entering and occupying Government offices. Secretariat buildings, law courts, etc. with a view to hampering the administration;
(g)    Arranging to punish police officers and prison officials who oppress and persecute the people;
(h)    Erecting barricades in the streets where there is a likelihood of attack from the police and the military;
(i)    Setting fire to Government offices and factories which are working for war purposes;
(j)    Interrupting postal, telegraph and telephone communication as frequently as possible and in different places;
(k)    Interrupting railway, bus and tram services, whenever there is a possibility of hampering the transport of soldiers or of war material;
(l)    Destroying police stations, railway stations and jails in isolated places.

Comrades, I can assure you that as soon as this programme is put into operation, the administrative machinery can be brought to a standstill. In this connection, I must remind you that in a non-violent guerrilla campaign the peasantry always plays a decisive part. I am glad to observe that in several provinces — in Bihar and in the Central Provinces — the peasants are already in the forefront. I earnestly hope that Swami Sahajanand Saraswati and other peasant leaders, who together with the Forward Bloc started the fight long before Mahatma Gandhi, will now lead the campaign to a victorious conclusion. I will appeal to Swami Sahajanand and the leaders of the Kisan Movement to come forward and fulfil their leading role in the last phase of the fight. We want Swaraj for the masses, Swaraj for the workers and the peasants. It is, therefore, the duty of the workers and the peasants to emerge as the vanguard of the national army at a time when the future of India is being made. It is the law of nature that those who fight for liberty and win it will retain power and responsibility.

It is very encouraging, friends, to find that the people of the Indian States have begun to participate in this all-India struggle. Reports to the effect have already come from Baroda, Mysore and Hyderabad, and I am confident that the day is not far off when the States people will line up with the people of British India and form a common front against the combined forces of British Imperialism and the Indian Princes.

Most gratifying of all is the news that the clarion call of liberty has reached the ears and the hearts of our soldiers at home and abroad. They have no doubt been court-martialled with characteristic British brutality. But the fire is spreading from one place to another. A number of soldiers have voluntarily deserted to join the Axis forces in Egypt and they are being welcomed with open arms by them. All the Indian fighting units have been withdrawn from the El Alamein front, as being unreliable. No wonder some supporters of British Imperialism have been brought up from India in order to impress the Indian troops. But their efforts have so far failed. I will be able to keep the outside world informed of all the facts of the Indian situation so as to secure from the enemies of Britain all the help that India may now need.

In conclusion, I must point out that the campaign in India should be carried out for weeks and if necessary for months. If the non-violent guerrilla war should continue sufficiently long, freedom will come because British imperialism will ultimately break down owing to the cumulative effect of defeats sustained on different fronts. Do not forget for one moment that the British Empire is now on its last legs.

At the same time, be prepared for every suffering because the apostles of freedom and democracy and the authors of the Atlantic Charter may do their very worst in the days to come. Before dawn comes the darkest hour. Be brave and continue the struggle, for freedom is at hand. Let your slogans be 'Now or Never', 'Victory or Death’. 'Inquilab Zindabad'.